Goodbye Fiji.

11/5/2017

We met Kat as planned in Auckland airport 11/1 and then the three of us flew to Fiji. It is great to be back. Huub left the boat well put away. That was a big chore, thank you Huub! He sailed down to NZ in a different boat last week and that went well.

Team Spill the Wine spent the past few days getting ready to go. Boat chores day by day. Nancy and I dismantled and greased two of four winches. That was messy. Thanks Nancy! Today we send Kat up the mast to inspect the rig and modify slightly. Thanks Kat! We have a great team.

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A view of a naked winch.

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A fully greased and clothed winch…

Scheduled to clear the marina bill tomorrow. Then to customs to clear out. Then we have to leave the marina. We will sneak off and anchor a couple hours South of here. Kat and I will be scrubbing the hull. New Zealand has no tolerance for dirty boats coming into their country. They are working hard to avoid invasive species problems.

Our friend Tony is still here. He’s a good Australian sort. It would be good to cross him again down the road. And we might. He heads for NZ the day after we do. Kat and I and Tony did significant provisioning today in Lautoka. We hit the fresh market and two grocery stores.

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The menu should be colorful as we head south.

Interestingly, there is lots of chicken, pork, lamb in the grocery. But little beef. That’s why we hit two grocers. The second one has a little bit of beef. I think Fiji us 90% Hindu. And they like cows. Sacred in fact. So eating them is frowned upon. Just like Nepal. But if you’re a water buffalo you are on the menu. You’d think this would be a popular place for cow tourists. Not seeing it tho…

Time to.mount the Solent Stay. This means a trip up the mast. Nancy cranks me up with the Milwaukee 28v Angle Drill of Power. Using the winch she just greased. It’s a pain going up mostly due to the fooling around factor getting ready. But it’s a bitchin’ view!

If you look closely you can see Nancy down in the cockpit. She runs the winch from there and we communicate with these clever headphone walkie talkie gizmos

This is a shorter forestay set up to carry a storm jib. Storm jib is pretty small. This means less powerful. In big wind you want less power. We’ll see if that proves necessary. We have been watching the weather. Predictions are mostly favorable. Maybe a day or two of headwinds. That happens. Situation norma

Rainy season is here. So we are getting rain for an hour or less daily. Mostly in the afternoon. That means the mosquitos are having a blast. And some of them are so small they are invisible. I will not miss them as we head south. But I must come back to Fiji. It is awesome.

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Return to Kathmandu

10/25/2017

Yesterday we explored Guar and relaxed. Today we depart for our next stop. Chitwan park with elephants. All will be revealed. The last drive was through serious mountains. Today we are traversing a river delta. Seriously flat. A great deal of rice production and other agriculture. Goats chickens water buffalo cows chickens and more goats of course. The road is on top of an elevated berm to keep it above the flooded rice fields. And in the first hour I must have seen a hundred smoke stacks standing all by themselves in the fields. As they are surrounded by brick piles I figure they are brick kilns. Fired by? There is not much wood here. But there is a bit of rice straw. Natural gas? Dunno. Maybe the wood has been consumed….

Later on we enter the forest. And the smokestacks go away. Coincidence? After awhile we stop for a bathroom break. I walk into the forest. Sadly it is paved with trash. I notice where I stand I’m surrounded by hundreds of something. Unopened condom packages. We had no idea we stopped in the Condom Forest. You can’t make this stuff up.

I don’t think there is any management of trash in Nepal. People seem to burn it in their yards and in the street. Institutions seem to hire removal services but then it is burned or dumped in random places like the forest. Too bad about that.

Our hotel in Guar was the best in town, but Hotel Parkland in Sauraha outside Chitwan park is a huge step up. The tours they put together for us were excellent. Great to relax after 5 hours on the bus.

10/26/2017

We get up early and head for the elephant station. The conductor loads 4 of us on each elephant and we head off into the forest of Chitwan park. The floor of which is not paved with trash or anything else.

Notice that the park ticket office is up high. So you can buy tix without getting off your elephant. We are hunting beasts. And discover deer eagles peacocks and… leeches. Seeing these from the back of an elephant is unique. But she’s moving. Makes a poor platform for photography, unless blur is a feature. The leeches got attached to the elephants trunk. She complained and the driver chased them off. After we are deposited back at the station we feed bananas to our mount. Seemed to be happy about that. But the leeches the elephant got on her truck left a mark. We fed her extra bananas. Ouch.

One of our team got leeched as well. She noticed something on her chest dinner and removed it.

The leech is that small dark slug looking thing on the plate by the res spot. Spooky. No ill effects beyond the obvious however.

10/27/2017

The next morning the tour is canoeing down the river. Crocodiles and peacocks and kingfishers. No leeches. I love canoeing.

There are about 80 elephants living in Sauraha to serve the tourists. They work until age 60 then they retire and they are allowed to live in the park. We visited some of their stables. Interestingly these beasts are nearly odorless. Dogs smell like dogs. Horses smell like horses. And elephants don’t smell much at all. Which is good. As big as they are, if they had an odor it would be huge.

At the end of the morning we went to the river for an elephant shower. The elephant stands in the river, you sit on their back and they hose you with their trunk. A very interesting experience. All the while the river flows by laden with large loaves of elephant dung. I would not recommend this on your first day in Nepal. But after you’ve been here for awhile it starts to feel normal. (Photo credit Michele Bayle)

After lunch we take a walking tour down to a different river. Our guide spots a large black rhino. We watch him wade his 4000 lb self into the river and lay down in a pool. He’s blowing bubbles out his nose and out the other end too. That’s what makes me think it’s a male…

We see lots if birds too. Guide Bishnu is awesome. Really good eye for finding critters and he knows a lot about them.

10/28/2017

Time to return to Kathmandu. We depart after breakfast. We will be climbing more than 4000 feet today to reach Kathmandu. As the road starts to climb the road gets Bad. Really Bad.

You can see rhe road chisled into the slope on the right side of the gorge. We pass a spot where a bus went over the side into the river just a few hours ago. They are still trying to hoist it out of the river. 31 people died. Our driver tells us they lose 2000 people a year on this road. The road we took as we departed Kathmandu had crazy switchbacks and was exciting, interesting and not without risk either. There was that rice truck that failed to negotiate a turn. Folks were busy salvaging the bags of rice as we went by. But that road’s condition was ok. Paved and stuff. The road taking us back to Kathmandu today is short on pavement. This makes for a seriously dusty road. The surrounding foliage and landscape is way grey. The road snakes up a serious river gorge. Lots of road construction. Traffic heavy with many many trucks and buses and motorcycles. A few cars. There are baskets that carry people across the river. Sometimes there are footbridges too. The first one here is pretty obvious. The second more subtle, look closely… (Photo credit Nancy Patterson)

There were even two regular bridges. The other side of the gorge is mostly too steep to build anything like a road. That’s why the baskets and footbridges. On our side the road surface is really lumpy and all dirt. At one point traffic was stopped completely for a half hour as the workers went at the project with heavy equipment. Removing lots of rock debris that was piling up in their workspace. But still it was certainly an interesting and exciting ride. All 8 hours of it. Some day all this bus riding is gonna end!

At our Kathmandu hotel we settle a bit, then off to get pizza. And Lo! They had a Denver IPA on the menu. I have not seen an IPA worthy of the name since I left Seattle in March! And the pizza was also worthy. On the walk to the pizza place I bought a tire tube for my bicycle.

Maybe Fiji had one but I could not find it and I tried. Great finish for a great day.

10/29/2017

This morning we head off in the bus to see the Monkey Temple. It has another name that is harder to spell and remember but… Oh well. There are probably two hundred monkeys living on the hill.

There was some damage from the 2015 earthquake. Some structures completely leveled. Some damaged such that they were still standing but you wondered how. Very significant Buddhist site. Our tour guide told us a lot about Nepal politics as well as the archeological sites. Very interesting. And sadly dysfunctional. It’s going around.

We next visited a mideval era town. Lots of temples and palace structures. Many destroyed by that earthquake. Some barely damaged. Some severely again. Why don’t they fall over??? “Wall looks weak over here Bob! Bunch of cracks. Bring me some 2×6 boards and left hope for the best…”

We get a nap after lunch. Then the hotel owner treats us to dinner at a restaurant he owns. Pretty cool. Nepalese food and dancing. Also music. Kathmandu traffic was bad. It took 45 minutes to get to the restaurant and 5 minutes to get back to the hotel later in the evening. You get the idea.

When the clinic’s over, turn out the lights.

10/22/2017 We arrive to a zoo at the worksite. There are 250 people In the schoolyard. Why all came on the last day? Humans are unpredictable. It’s predictable. And they are larcenous. Several hundred sunglasses have disappeared from the locked room in which they were stored. Sigh. They weren’t the prettiest… 🙂 We see about 300 people that day. Nancy worked the automatic refractor and I did the eye health evaluation. In the afternoon i worked in the dispensary to match patients with glasses. That is always an interesting puzzle to solve. And doing it to the sound of bleating goats is quite odd. Days end and we break down the clinic. The bus is normal size but still too big to get through the village to the worksite. So we have to schlep all the leftover glasses a half mile to the bus. Oof! The town is interesting. The residents are busy with farming rice and vegetables. Goats roam all over the place. They have plenty of hogs running around. Water buffalo are tied up by the houses and are busy eating all day. These people live with their livestock. Their immune systems must be monstrously potent. The houses are constructed variously. A few are concrete slab with concrete pillars if there is a second floor. Many are dirt floor with woven sticks filled in with mud to make sort of clay walls. Some have walls of woven sticks. It’s one of the poorest places I’ve ever been. The children are as happy as any I’ve ever seen. As our bus crawled out of the village there was a naked boy dancing in the street and dozens of other smiling waving children to bid us adieu. The water buffalos did not wave.

Clinic in Guar Nepal

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Day 3. All I can say is they came out of the woodwork today. Way busier than yesterday. But another good day. I ate lunch in the schoolyard with the goats. They like banana peels pretty well. Apple core were rejected? Who knew.

We have been watching farmers harvesting rice and rice straw. Today they brought in a machine like a chipper shredder maybe. It separates the rice from the straw then chops up the straw into bits that the water buffalo and oxen can eat. Keep it local!

10/22/2017
Day 4. Even busier clinic today. Crowd control was better. The caste system is still here in Nepal and there was conflict since they all had to wait in the same line. But manageable. Some of us walked back to the hotel from the worksite. Very colorful tour!20171022_164259

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Notice the young man in charge of the hogs.  On our walk we saw several of these kids bringing the hogs home for the night after browsing leftovers from the rice fields.20171022_164934

Sunset while walking down the dike.

Meanwhile, in Nepal

10/16/2017

The flight to China was 12 hrs. Oof! Two hour layover is adequate to make our connection to Kathmandu. Another 4.5 hrs and we are done with plane for a bit. We collect our bags and clear customs. Our fearless leader Ravi meets us with Drs. Willow, Jeff and Randy.

Problem. All the glasses have been sequestered by customs. Ravi has in hand a stack of papers authorizing their importation but somehow they need one more paper. Been here before. Situation normal. But still a drag. After squaring awsy the 20 odd cases of 10000 glasses we have to go to some govt ministry to get our Nepal eye Dr licences.

5 hours later we escape from the airport with all our spex. But it’s 5pm and tomorrow will have to do for the licences.

I think it was a pissing contest. The customs guy probably gets tired of various officials asking for an “exception” for one of their good buddy’s imported whatever. You’d think they would be more sympathetic for stuff to be donated to the poor, but maybe it’s not that simple. Anyway Ravi got it handled. Shows you the value of support on site from a well connected citizen of the country in question. Priceless.

We head off to the hotel in a couple of large vans. Kathmandu is a teeming mass of very colorful people. And lots of them. Motorcycles everywhere. Which is interesting as I have not noted many motorcycles since Rarotonga. We find our hotel down some unlikely alley and it’s dinner thirty. Sleeping in a bed is kinda novel!

10/17/2017

Ok time to get up. It’s 5am! Time to catch another plane. We take a bus through streets that are mildly less crazy than they were yesterday afternoon. Visability at ground level is poor. Kathmandu is a dust bowl. Maybe not always but after their recent earthquake there is rubble everywhere. And reconstruction too. I think there are two seasons here. Dusty, and rainy.

This plane takes all of us on a fly by of the Himalayas to include Mt Everest. We rotate through the cockpit to get photos through the nicer optics of the windshield.

Looking down through the gaps in the cloud ceiling I note that there is a fair frequency of buildings present on the ridgelines. Truth is elusive but me speculating, much more common. The sides of the hills are steep. Maybe the ridge line was as close as it gets to Flatbush ground? Plains at bottom are already taken. Who knows. It’s another planet.

Somehow this experience has made me hungry…

After breakfast we head over to Immigration ministry. They are supposed to give us eye Dr licences remember? So it gets complicated. We all got tourist visas. Dr licences in Nepal converts your visa to working visa. Possible conflict on exit. Our passports say tourist. Their records say working. Start over.

Ravi and Co will work that without us. We will try to catch up with the Vosh folks on the tour. Monkey Temple here we come.

Pretty cool Monkey Temple. If you like Big Golden Buddhas! Then we caught up with the rest of the team and toured some more. There is a spot on the river (which drains into the Ganges, Big Deal locally) where people have been coming to burn their dear departeds for a thousand years. Nice riverside burning platforms. Nice temples adjacent. Multiple cremations in progress. People throwing their empty plastic bottles into the sacred river. Quite the multi faceted scene.

We visited otheir temples. Kathmandu valley was once 5 kingdoms. Then only one. Now is aspiring to be a democracy. Our tour guide gave us some background on this. Sounds like democracy here is challenged by a poorly educated electorate. Must be contageous.

20/18/2017

We get up for 7am breakfast. Depart Kathmandu at 8. Estimated 10 hour drive to Gaur turns into 12. But what a ride! We head south and cross one pass at 6500 ft and another at 8000. That road has Many switchbacks. But everyone survived and we arrived in Gaur in time for dinner.

Our bus driver stuffed our bus down a tight alley. He had an assistant all along on this trip. He whistled to the driver in tight spots. Different whistles. One meant go. One stop. Another go R. Another go L. Probably more. A whole language of whistle talking. Pretty interesting to watch them work together. And then we slept like stones.

2/19/2017

Up for bkfst at 7am. We depart in our bus at 8am. Arrive at work site 830 and set about distributing our kit. Room 1 for registration. 2 for acuities and history. 3 for pathology. 4 for refractive assessment. 5 is dispensary for Rx glasses. 6 is for reading glasses and sunglasses. We are working out of a school and have room for all this. Sort it out and get to work.

We see 185 people day 1. A light load but still pretty good. We started late and the crowd thinned out as celebrations of the Diwali festival got going.

That night we dined at the hotel then took a walk around town. Dodgy that. Lots of things exploding. Fireworks are a significant part of Diwali party. As far as I know nobody lost an eye…

10/20/2017

Same formula today. We roll thru about 100 patients then we are out of patients. It picked up again later but we should have munched lunch in the gap. Hindsight.

We are done by 430 and head back to the hotel. Let’s talk about that. Nicest hotel in Guar for sure. Just the same, power outages are pretty common. There is no hot water. But there is no cold either. Just Luke. And as much as you like. 🙂 The building is tired you could say. We may be the only guests. The staff here is very helpful and very nice. As I write this I am finding the bugs unfortunately drawn to the light of my phone screen. Who knows what kind if bugs they are. Seem friendly enough. Thankfully not very bite prone. I can deal with all this. It is the best in town and we should be happy with even less, as that is what most Guar residents get.

Dinner at the hotel again. Way better than the onion sandwiches served at lunch. (Seriously not kidding).

 

 

 

Separation from Fiji Anxiety Syndrome

10/10/2017

We returned to the village this morning to wrap up a few more exams. Getting pretty low on reading glasses Mon! But we got by ok. Time to move on to Blue Lagoon. It is about 10 miles North. We weigh anchor and get moving. The light is right and we can see the shallow bits nicely. We sail up the West side of the Yasewa group with favorable wind. We are making water now that we are out in the open. Less than good idea to make water unless it is quite clear. That way the filters don’t clog so quickly. Bays usually not ideal. The Pacific crossing was!

Good wind makes wind waves. But the Blue Lagoon zone is protected. The wind might gust to 20 but the sea is flat. We anchor in about 60 feet and it holds nicely.

Quite a few boats here that we are acquainted with. We join them for dinner on shore. Interesting resort. Some kiwis run it and they grow nearly all their food here on island. Good idea, this place is 40 miles over water from the nearest supplies. Impressive garden system. They do some retail so we get some veges for Spill The Wine.

10/11/2017

Relax today. Huub does a solo hike looking for artifacts from the Blue Lagoon movie. Nancy and I go ashore for a hike and then stay ashore for dinner again. Huub joins us, shows up with a bloody hand. Peeling coconuts with a knife appears risky. He’ll survive. Yesterday was Fiji Day and the place was packed. Today it’s pretty quiet. We have it all to ourselves. Nice contrast. We meet some friends of Huub. An Australian woman traveling with her daughter and her Spanish girlfriend. Nice folks. And that’s all the customers tonight!

10/12/2017

We depart for the Octopus Resort. About 20 miles takes about 4 hours. Water got skinny when Huub was piloting. I had told him to follow the track we laid down on our way up the other day to stay in known safe water. He looked at the chart and steered east of our track because that looked safer. Today huub learned that the chart lies. Bonk! I can’t be mad I’ve done the same thing. I need a big rubber nose on the front of my keel! Maybe I’m serious. South Pacific rocks aplenty.

When we got to the cove the resort was in, it was blowing 15 kts and was not protected. Pretty rolly anchorage. So while the snorkeling was reputed to be quite good, not in these conditions. But we were in time for dinner.

There is a shallow across the reef. A young man named Sam (age 7?) Directs us to the deepest spot. Thanks Sam! Lots of young folks on the beach. This makes nervous. Frequently in this situation I might expect to return to the dinghy and find it full of sand. Maybe with some shell gifts too. Boats are magnetic for children I think.

10/13/2017

After breakfast we made for Vuda Point Marina. Nancy and I depart for Nepal early on the 15th and I need to get Spill the Wine tucked in before we go. And the marina is first come first served. No time to not get served! We had to motor most of the way. No wind. Then it filled in for the last couple hours and we sailed nicely.

No more room in the circular basin that comprises the marina. I’ve mentioned before that this marina is unique. So after taking on 64 Liters of fuel we tied to the wharf and came ashore for dinner. Quite a few boats we knew from Mexico were present. Fun reviewing with them.

10/14/2017

This morning we found a spot in the basin next to our friends Thom and Ted on Fathom. Tonight we cook up the refrigerator. Frozen Spanish mackerel will be the star of the plates. And will make great leftovers for Huub.

I gave Spill The Wine a good bath. Overdue but water here is available and free. Drama interrupts my cleaning. Boat next to us is leaving. They get hung up in my and other boat’s stern lines. The marina jockey helping assist their departure tells the captain to engage forward thrust. Cap politely declined as he is concerned he will wrap up his prop in the lines. Soon some maneuvers seem to clear the lines. Engage. Wrapped up for sure. Does this sound familiar? Same thing happened to me last week in this marina. But today it is not my turn to go diving in the soupy water. Yay!

Bad news is one of my stern lines got involved with this mess. Bummer. First it was the afflicted boat’s crew in the water, then the marina diver went at it. They got cut free ok. There were 3 different lines bound around their propshaft. When that was over, where did my line go? The marina folks went fishing for it with a wire hook on a pole. The found a very nice line. But not mine. Oh well. Close enough!

Packing. Not bringing much but it’s always a question as to what will I forget? Oy! I am bringing a jacket. Nepal may require that.

10/15/2017

Today I wear pants and shoes. It has really been awhile!

Huub is staying on board for another day or three. I gave him instructions as to how to close the boat when he leaves. Defrost the fridge, chase out the spoilables. No cyclones while we are gone please! I’ve got another neighbour keeping an eye on her after Huub leaves.

Our taxi comes along at 630am and off to the airport. I could not help but notice that all the controls were in Chinese. I left to wonder… rental cars from China that have second lives as cabs in Fiji? What countries speak Chinese and need right hand drive vehicles? Hong Kong? Who knows. We remembered our passports and things go well. We arrive in Auckland and settle in for our 12 hour layover.  63 degrees.  We’re not in Fiji anymore.

Meet the Chief

10/2/2017

Wind is blowing plenty. 20 plus knots. We depart our protected anchorage and make for musket cove. We are making good time on jib only. Anchoring in all that wind was kinda interesting but we got it done. Whew! Time for a nap. And when I awoke about 4pm the wind was down to very little. That makes the trip to shore more pleasant. 🙂

Dinner ashore and Katharina joins STW again.

10/3/2017

A good day to relax. We are anchored maybe closer to a reef than I like. We pick up a mooring ball and sleep better.

10/4/2017

Our next will be to travel North to the Yasewas. Time to lay in some supplies for traveling North. There is a bit of a store in Musket Cove and we get what we can. Avoid starvation we will!

10/5/2017

Huub joins us thus morning. He came out on the ferry. We leave the anchorage about 1pm and make it up to Navadra island in time for dinner.

10/6/2017

I get up at sunrise and after breakfast it’s time for a hike up the hill that makes this island. This is a landmark day. I’m putting on shoes and socks so my feet will survive the hike. It has been a long time. I’d tell you how long but I’m not sure what day it is. Do maybe I’m not too reliable…

No wind. Very still. And hot. Lots of small goats on the island. They probably think I am stalking them. Not really. I am using their paths. Which is to say there could be a bit more headroom on the path! The goats are unmoved by my discomfort. Nice view at the top. Spill The Wine is bobing comfortably at anchor. Dinghy can be seen still on the beach. That’s always handy. The trip down is pretty easy. I take a different path and it proves to be the recommended route. A rope is set up to help with a steep patch. There are even some tape markers on the trees to mark the path. I definitely missed those on my way up the hill! I should have asked a goat for directions. No one else lives here.

After a hot walk snorkeling is in order. Nancy and I tour the reef. It’s a good one! Kat goes for a snorkel too and Huub decides to get up on the same hill I did. But it’s hotter now… 🙂

We pack up and leave about 11am. No wind as advertised. Good time to make water. But wait! The wind fills in on the last third. Nice.

My Navionics chart database is worth mentioning. Seems a bit light on navigation details. Today we passed by a rocky shoal. Big waves crashing on it. Looked like a few Krakens were having a rumble. Really violent wave action confined to a small area. Would have been nice to have that charted. Plenty of rocks and reefs to do your boat in can be found in Fiji. Heck the rest of the South Pacific Islands as well. Fortunately I have been able to employ Google Earth to fill in the blanks.

We find Thom and his buddy Tim on their boat Fathom in the anchorage. Time to roast a chicken on the Egg!

10/7/2017

There is a pass near the anchorage that is known for manta rays. But they like to feed there shortly after sunrise. So we got moving early. Kat and Thom and Tim and I dinghyed over and did some drift snorkeling. There is current in the pass at the change of tides. So you dinghy up current then get in the water. You and the dinghy will float along with the current. After a bit you do it again. We did get to swim with a manta ray in the pass. They are filter feeders and dine on krill. Odd graceful animal. Remora fish tagging along with it. And us I suppose. Though I’m sure we don’t look much like remora we act like them.

Too much fun. I returned to Spill The Wine to collect Nancy and Huub. They were a bit slow to get moving this morning but I don’t think they should miss this! And they get a chance to see this denizen of the deep too.

Katharina catches the 230pm ferry back to the main island to meet her next boat. They depart for New Zealand soon. She’ll be back in Fiji November 1 to cross with Spill The Wine to New Zealand again. That will make 3 crossings this season. Kid’s putting down some sea miles!

We had dinner at the nearby MantaRay Island Resort. Just another awesome Fiji place to visit! We spoke to some of the staff about where we might do another eye clinic. They suggest Somo Somo village on the North end of the next island. Some of the staff lives there.

10/8/2017

We relax in the morning and weigh anchor in the afternoon. Off to Somo Somo. It’s about 10 miles. We make some water on the way. We pass quite a few reefs. Not all of them charted. You really have to watch your keel in the South Pacific. We arrive late Sunday afternoon and anchor off the village.

We roast a chicken with Thomasi and Ani of Robusta. We crossed them in Moorea and it’s good to see them again.

10/9/2017

Spill The Wine and Robusta crew go ashore at 10am. Some boys on the beach immediately welcome us to Somo Somo. Turns out they are tourists too. Rugby players from another island here for a game and some R&R. Another fellow comes along to take us to visit the Chief of this village.

It is traditional in many of the South Pacific islands to seek out the chief and ask permission to anchor, snorkel, etc. And to honor the chief with a gift of Kava root. Kava is a traditional beverage these people enjoy.

Chief here is a woman who might be 90. She gives us a warm welcome and we are told that we are now members of their village and can come and go as we please. It’s one thing to tell you about this, but to hear this spoken to you, it moves your heart in a way that might surprise you.

I ask her if we might do some eye examinations for her village. She likes this idea and it is arranged for 2pm today. We take a photo with the chief and she wants to see it. She approves. 🙂

We did exams for about 40 women and 2 men. The men seem to just want sunglasses. We ran out of those pretty quick! The women actually want to read so reading glasses for them. My money is on these tricky men to be borrowing those readers down the road…. 🙂

After we clean up its time for a Fiji dance show. The Polynesian dances have all impressed me with a common element. These people are having a blast! A maybe 7 year old boy comes along and wants to dance with Nancy. Irresistable. We all end up dancing. There are some students in town for a cultural exchange project. Good energy there too.

Robusta joined us for dinner on Spill The Wine. Grilled Spanish Mackerel. A gift from a friend of Kat’s. Thanks Josh!

 

Small bits of earth in western Fiji

9/30/2017

We wake to gentle swell and almost no wind. Just what is predicted for the next couple days. And we have nowhere we need to be. A good day for reading in the cockpit. One of our neighbors comes along and invites us to a beach fire at 5pm. Ok. Maybe we do have some place to be.

Beach BBQ was fun. 12 really nice people. We brought the grill off the big green egg and toasted pork chops. Some guitar and we dinghy back to Spill The Wine.

10/01/2017

Lazy morning. Almost. When the beams in the hull were repaired in Mexico there were a few less passages to allow bilge water to pass through the beams. Today I restored the missing links. The bilge should drain better going forward. We’ll see about that

We depart our little island around noon. Head south to Mana island. Wind is off and on. But it’s a beautiful day. We sail past the island where Castaway was filmed. No sign of Wilson. We arrive at Mana and the pass is not as it appears on the chart. And all the marks are the same color as they are backlit. This goes not well and we wind up outside the channel. Bonk. Good thing we were going slow. I’m getting over this hitting stuff thing. If you do a lot of boating you will hit stuff. Especially in strange territory. If you are really smart you’ll be going slow. Never been to Mana before. What I did not do and should have was use a little app that takes google earth images and puts you on em. Never mind charts. Navigating on photos isn’t so bad either.

Mana has a restaurant or two and we treat ourselves to a meal on shore. And sleep well.

We were planning on spending a day in the Mana lagoon but the wind comes on. And was predicted to hit 30 through the night. So we move on after lunch. Way easier to navigate the pass with the sun behind us.

We cross south to Qualito island and anchor off a beach on the deserted north side. Good protection from the south wind. We snorkel and then it’s pork chop night.

Of Musket Cove, Denarau and Vuda Point Marinas

9/19/2017

I have 6 crew for race day. Three guys with racing experience, Nancy, Kat, and me. The wind was a dream. Blew about 20 all day. Probably a 20 mile course. We made it in 2 1/4 hours. Fastest time was was a super go fast boat at 1 1/4 hrs. Just a stunning day. First time sailing together with this combination and everybody clicked, worked together, and had a blast. They all get invited back.

The dinner that night to close tge regatta was also great but the sailing was better.

9/20/2017

The next day then went over to Port Denarau in the main island. We took a dock for about an hour so Huub could take some video. He is working on another video. He puts a lot if content out on YouTube. The dock was not available overnight so we went to a mooring ball for the next two nights.

Denarau is a nice place. Staff is super nice. So like Fiji. About 6 restaurants. Some marine services. I had one of my steering wheels rewelded. It has been working hard!

We had planned to boot our hitchhikers off for a bit so Nancy and I could have some time for just us. Huub and Guillaume went off together. But Kat became deadly ill. Fever of 103 plus.
Nancy took her to an urgent care place and that took all day. IV fluids, blood work, antibiotics. Not a great day for Kat. So she sure stayed on the boat. But after a few days she was improved. And our time in Port Denarau expired. They were quite booked. We anchored off shore of the marina on the evening of the 23rd.

1763 hours fill diesel. Takes 117 liters.

9/24/2017

The next morning we headed off to Vuda Point Marina. We pulled in next to our friend Thom on Fathom. And here we can stay as long as we like. Nice feeling. Kat stays with us another couple days but one morning we note that she is cleaning and generally putting the boat in order. We know she is back to herself.

9/26/2017

My dinghy had an old injury that had been repaired. I left the dinghy in the sun on the foredeck. Bad idea. The repair came unglued. My neighbor Thom has some Grade A dinghy glue and repair fabric. I accept this gift and go to town on the patch. First I have to remove the old patch and glue completely. Acetone is our friend! I unfurled the Jib on this wind less day to provide some shade. Mix up the two part glue. Whack it all together according to instructions and cross my fingers.

9/27/2017

Kat departed today to spend some time with some of her boating cadre. And finally it is just Nancy and I. And the rest of the marina… I mean dinner does happen every night. We are running the Big Green Egg with charcoal briquettes. Strait charcoal not seen since Tahiti. Kind of a drag. Briquettes don’t get as hot and there is way more ash. So we are slow cooking our chickens.

9/28/2017

I stop in the boat store in the marina. I note that they have rigging pins of various sizes. Ooooo! Boat project! My forestay was mounted in Mexico. I think they lost track of some parts. The pin on the forestay is not right. Too long and too skinny. Some other parts are not assembled correctly. So I loosen up all the backstays and lean the mast forward to slack the forestay. Swap out the 8mm pin for the 10mm pin and things are improved. Tighten up the rest of the stays and I feel like maybe the boat is ready for NZ!

Best choice is leave tomorrow and tour some more islands to be sure the forestay adjustment is working and to be sure the dinghy patch holds up. All will be revealed!

9/29/2017

We make a last run to town for some fresh veges. Pretty cool sugar train goes by. 12 foot long cars on a narrow gauge rail system from days gone by. Sugar was the economy in the past, and it is still a big part of it.

It gets interesting as soon as you slip your lines. And today was no exception. It is an odd marina where you bow tie to a sloping wall and stern tie to bouys about 75 feet off the wall. Marina staff in a panga boat release the stern ties. Nancy releases the bow. Mild cross wind. Unfortunately this blows me into my neighbors stern lines. Panga driver does not seem to understand that the only way to avoid this would have been to keep the upwind stern line tied until the last minute. But he cut it loose right away. He wants me to give it some forward thrust. I’m concerned that I’m on my neighbor’s stern line but I think he must be aware of that possibility any not think it’s a problem. It’s a problem. The line gets wrapped up in my prop. They don’t have a diver.

“Maybe the Captain can dive on the prop?” Oh dear. This marina is kind of a soup. Not the sort of water you would want to ever get in. I wash my hands after touching anything that has been in it. But there we are. Half in a slip and half out. And not going anywhere.

I get my snorkel gear together. A knife. Nancy passes me the marlinspike (thank you Eduard Martinez.) And down I go. There are no fish. Visibility is poor. And the rope is nicely wound around the prop shaft. I work it with the marlinspike. An ancient tool to untie stubborn knots. Go down, come up and breath. Repeat. It unwinds a bit then will unwind no more forever. Made one with the shaft for all time.

Time for a proper hacking. As I cut the fibers they release quite a bit of tension. With a nice underwater bang! Kinda spooky. Now we are free. I put antibiotic eye drops in my eyes, remake my neighbors stern line and off we go.

The marina basin is kind of in a hole. Not much wind. Nice on a windy day but hot on a day with light wind. As soon as we exit it is blowing 20-25 knots. And it cools.

We have two destinations in mind. One is 16 miles right upwind. One is 24 miles on a beam reach. If we go for the first we will be motoring upwind at 5 knots against the wind waves if we are lucky. It would be rough. If we go for the second we will make 6-7 knots under sail and have seas on the beam. Not ideal either but better than on the nose. And we would arrive sooner even though the distance is further due to better boat speed. Off we go.

Wind is great on jib only. Gets above 20 knots and I reef the jib. Costs a half knot but the boat does not whack over so significantly. Nancy gets Mal de mer in the galley under way so I make lunch.

We arrive about 430pm. Get an anchor down and relax. Bay opens north so great protection from the strong south wind. The water here is 50ft deep and I can see the bottom. Nancy makes spaghetti carbonara. It’s a good day!

Musket Cove

9/17/2017

Today is Hobie cat day at 2pm. Kat and I decide to participate. There is a lot of wind. 15-20 kts. 4 Hobie cats. Raced in pairs throughout the afternoon. We watch a bunch of heats before our turn. Many capsized boats due to high wind. I decide I will call it a success if we don’t capsize. And we don’t. But we were eliminated. Sigh!

Friends brought Mahi Mahi and we toasted it on the Egg for dinner.

9/18/2017

Willow departs today. Taking the ferry back to the big Island then Taxi to the airport. Wave!

Tonight was briefing for tomorrow’s Race. Will we be ready? Huub and Kat cleaned the hull so we will go faster. Might work! Then costume like party at the beach bar.

20170918_150742

This photo was from the opening night party.  all the nation’s represented had the amazing opportunity to sing their national anthem.  Naturally Nancy knew all the words.

 

 

Eye work at Soso Village

More 9/13/2017

We arrive in our chosen cove shortly before sunset. Assemble the dingy and lo! The outboard likes the propane! I take the dinghy to Soso village and ask permission from the chief to anchor in their bay. His English is limited and there is a woman translating into the native tongue. He says fine, anchor away. I gift him with a quantity of Kava. I don’t know much about this but I read that it is very traditional to introduce yourself to the village this way. It is a root that is made into a beverage. Kinda like a tea. Additionally I tell the chief that I will be back at 11am the following day to distribute reading glasses.

Back on Spill The Wine we roast a chicken and some veges. It’s great to be out of the marina again.

9/14/2017

So this morning we went back in to Soso village. We had our personal videographer Huub. Kat and Nancy worked our supply of glasses and kept the flow moving. Dr. Willow and I evaluated patients and recommended prescription strength. We saw about 30 patients. The youngest was 48. We fixed them all up with reading glasses. Nicer gentler people I have not met. Loving Fiji. I am recommending Fiji to you.

In the afternoon we went around the corner and did a drift snorkel in a narrow pass. Mucho fish!

Then we came back to Soso and saw a few more patients. Then a nice gentleman took us for a tour of Soso and we had tea and biscuits with the first lady of the village. Then we retired to Spill The Wine before the sun went down. There were many children on the beach to see us off. And I happened to notice that there was a great deal of sand in the dinghy that unknown agents had tracked in. Unknown agents with very small feet I’m thinking… 🙂

9/15/201

Yay! Happy aniversary to Nancy and me! Fiji is a great place to be happy together.

Kat and Huub and I get up at 6 and hoist the anchor. Huub documents everything with video. The anchor, deploying the sails, all kinds of angles. We have 28 miles to go and the wind cooperates for a time. Kat and I clean the heck out of the cockpit with salt water. Fun because when it dries it leaves salt crystals that catch the sun and shine like so many diamonds. Then Kat makes German pancakes with fried plantains for everybody.

We find our way to Musket Cove Yacht Club and anchor. Register for the regatta. Opening bash was interesting. They had all the different nationalities present sing their respective national anthems. Germany Canada US Australia New Zealand Fiji and who knows who else. Good crowd.

9/16/2017

Race to Treasure Island for lunch and back today. Wind is ok then gone. It was reading 0.1 knots at one point. Not sure if I’ve ever seen it that low. Ok some Motoring called for. Restaurant is about all the island can hold. We pick up another couple sailors that had stayed too long and missed their ride. Fun couple 70 year old blokes (being English). We closed the night on one of their boats.

Fijian Welcome

9/11/2017

Envionmental inspection comes on board at 1130. We spent the morning cleaning the b’jesus out of the interior. Little bits of mold in many places. Debris in too many odd spots. So it was a good thing the customs process started so late.

Environmental guy, Wilson, was very nice and our foodstuffs passed his scrutiny. He nuked the boat interior with anti mosquito stuff. As I was speaking to Wilson in the cockpit, I noted one of the flying ants on the floor. Hmmm bummer. Without drawing attention I crushed him with my toe. Don’t want to be having a flying ant discussion with an environmental inspector. Then to shore. A crew of Fijians came to the dock to sing us a welcome. We are only one boat! Over the top welcome. Then on to customs. A woman behind the counter there asks if we have any fresh fruit or eggs. We do I tell her. Wison gave these things a pass, but I don’t mention that. She is not pleased with her coworkers! “Now I have to board your boat!” Off she stomps and the eggs and bananas do not pass. We also lose canned meat of all things. My beloved Spam goes. Canned chicken goes.

After I make it through customs I check in to the marina and apply for a Cruising Permit. We should have that in hand by tomorrow.

Thoughts on customs. The process here is circuitous and not always logical as in most countries. But the attitude of the staff is universally friendly and helpful. So I’d have to say best customs experience since leaving Mexico.

Next is Propane. The fuel depot is about a block away. I carry the fuel tanks over and discover they have butane primarily but propane too in tanks that are not set up for filling mine. I explain that propane is for my outboard motor and that butane does not work. They tell me they can do it. Just come by tomorrow am to pick up.

9/12/2017

I am at the gas depot at 8 am and there was a problem. Tanks not filled. But come back at noon. Ok. Back at noon. Before i can tell him why I’m here the gate attendant says “oh, well. You’re the propane guy.” And the clock ticks on my 15 minutes of “propane guy” fame. And the tanks are ready. I was beginning to doubt! Deliver the propane tanks back to SpilltheWine. Collect boat papers. Taxi to the customs office at the wharf in Lautoka. My Cruising Permit is properly authorized and stamped. Stamps are very important in the world of customs. Stickers sometimes too.

While I have been fooling around with gas and customs Nancy, Willow and Kat go to town to round up food. Also mission critical! We get it all together and fund that our plans to depart today are void. Too late to sail. Too soon dark. Ok, one more night in Vuda Marina.

Which is an odd marina. It is round. The boats tie bow or stern to the stone perimeter wall. Then you tie to an anchor towards the center of the basin. And the boats are quite close to one another. There are no finger piers. Makes getting on and off the boats rather exciting. Leap of death off the bow is what it amounts to. In any case the staff is awesome but apart from them I’d rather not spend too much time here.

9/13/2017

We get ready to go. I pay the bill at the marina office. Then off we go. Me, Nancy, Willow, Kat and Huub. We start out with main and jib at 10 kts. Later we stow the jib and fly the asymmetric spinnaker. Things go great until the wind takes a lunch break. And we motor for a bit. Gotta get shelter before dark. Too many reefs here for night sailing.

Closing on Fiji

9/9/2017

Nice morning.  We motored through a windless night and deploy the jib as the wind builds.  We make 3 to 4kts.  This will have us arriving at the right time to avoid triple customs fees (weekend arrival is more costly).

Huub has been closeted away working on a video tutorial on how to hitch boat rides across the Pacific Ocean.  He shows me the finished product.  Nice work.  Look for “The Dutch Seaman on YouTube.

After breakfast the fresh Walter pump blows a fuse.  Hmm.  Never did that before…   so I reset it.  Then it blew again.  Now I know what I’ll be up to this morning.

I put an amp meter on the pump which is rated to draw 11 amps max.  I measure it drawing up to 50.  And also it reads OL on the meter at times.  I take this to mean over limit.  I think something is shorting.  I set about pulling the pump.  I note the wire terminals show signs of overheating.  50 amps will do that to 16 gauge wire…   It happens I have a spare water pump.  I install that and it works fine.

Kat asks me how water pumps work.  I try to explain and fail.  Nothing like taking bum gear apart as a teaching tool.  The motor is tricky but it looks like the contact plates in the rotor might be shorting out with dust from aged brushes.  We clean the narrow space between the plates with an old guitar string and reassemble.  Then inspect the pump mechanism.  That part doesn’t look suspicious.  Reinstall that pump and still draws too much power.  One or more rotor coils shorted?  Maybe I’ll look at this pump motor again some old lonesome day but for now we run on the spare.  Anybody have electrical advice or do I have to open (gasp!) a book?

The wind poops out during this project and it is again diesel time again.  Later in the afternoon wind returns and we run nicely on the spinnaker.  We’ve been fishing but no fish.  Pasta with zucchini and cream sauce for dinner is a great plan B.

9/10/2017

We motored through most of last night.  Then during Kat’s watch some wind returns.   I’m sleeping and wake to the sound of her deploying the jib.  I consider going up to help.  But it’s an easy one sailor task.  And she will realize more satisfaction if she does it all herself.  She agreed when I spoke to her later.

Shortly after dawn we furl the jib and deploy the spinnaker.  Not a one sailor job!  Flies nicely for a few hours, then wind dies again.  We are 30 miles from our marina destination.  We are due at 6pm earliest.  Its 9:45 am and we have time.

Passage to Fiji

9/6/2017

The sea is endless and we are enjoying nights with a full to nearly full moon.  It’s never dark.  We have a lot of lentils on board.  Legacy from previous crew Lynn Ringseis.  Kat makes good things happen to them and we feast.

9/7/2017

Kat makes pancakes with banana lime vanilla jam that she also made.  Really glad she moved into the galley.  After breakfast she and I deploy the asymmetric spinnaker.  Wind perfect for this and she flies all day.  Huub gets up and we all nibble on leftovers and enjoy the ride.

Late in the morning I bathe on the swim step while the crew sleeps.  It’s good to be clean and we have full water tanks on board.  Mr. Sulu the wind vane steering system takes over for the electric autopilot.

9/8/2017

Today brings decent wind that decays as the day wears on.  Wind now 4kts.  We are making 2.  Not all bad.  Fat wind early was putting us areas of schedule.  Risk of arriving on wkend.  Which means overtime for the customs people.  Runs up a bill. I was told 500 extra.  So the wind dying saves us money.  Don’t want to get there before Monday anyway.  But we Like going fast.  Kat cheers us up with spicy Flatbread and creamy cucumber salad.  It’s a good day!

Last Tango in Vava’u

9/2/2017

Wake up this morning and the cove is glass and the birds are singing their morning songs. After breakfast itv’s time to snorkel.  More peaceful without wind and waves.  Starfish, fishfish, sea slugs, coral.  A good day to snorkel.  The sea is so still I can watch my shadow glide across the bottom of the anchorage.

Today we are off for anchorage 30.  It’s funny.  All the anchorages have #s.  Beats trying and failing to pronounce the local names!

30 is cool.  With reservations.  You can go ashore and hike a bit.  We crossed over to the Eastern exposure.  Serious surf and cliffs.  Very dramatic.  Then the west side was gentle beach. That is where we anchored.  Shallow bits there.  We kissed the sand gently with the keel.  Keep it gentle shall we?  But good anchorage found very close by.

In the mid afternoon the flies were getting out of hand.  Maybe 100 of them in the boat.  You get the idea.  Crew was ashore so Nancy and I hauled the anchor and we dropped it further from shore.  Maybe 150 yards more seaward.  And that made a big difference.  We went on a fly murdering rampage with the electric swatter.  The fly bodies stacked up on the floor bit we were victorious.  This is the only time we have seen many flies at all on the boat.  Odd.

S/V Danika with our friends John and Oceana were also anchored here but no other boats.  We all had dinner on Spill The Wine.  Still out of charcoal so fueling the Big Green Egg with bits of wood again.  Should have tried this a long time ago.

9/3/2017

Off to anchorage 16.  Good snorkeling nearby.  Sheltered from the prevailing Easterly wind.  Huub and Kat row to shore and scope out a beach and decide to take hammocks ashore and sleep there.  Sounds like a nice idea.  Until after dark after dinner. Then they decided maybe not.  I get that.  This anchorage has no flies.  But they do have flying ants.  Hundreds of them.  We play a bit of guitar in the cockpit but that does not last long.  Too many flying ants.  Maybe locusts tomorrow?  I’ll stay tuned.

In the middle of the night the wind shifts.  Now from the South and we are swinging pretty close to shore as a result.  No Bueno.  Kat and I re-anchor in the very dark and 20-25 kt wind.  But we dropped anchor in the protection on another little island so it all worked.  Except for the seat cushion that the wind sailed out of the cockpit.  So it goes.  Situation normal.

9/4/2017

Today after breakfast we return to Neiafu.  We need to stock up for the crossing and check out with customs as we depart from Tonga for Fiji.  Nancy flies to Fiji tomorrow.  But not before she and Kat take inventory of the galley supplies.  Disposing of things expired and getting a grocery list together.  We have dinner at the home of a Tongan guy we met.  Nice meal and priceless grand children.

9/5/2017

Nancy is off to the airport after breakfast.  Spill The Wine is off to fill her water tanks.  Then off to the customs dock.  Then Kat and Huub go execute the grocery list.  I deal with customs.  Then the fuel truck is scheduled to come to the wharf and fill our tanks with diesel.  We get tax free fuel as we have already cleared customs.  Yay!  By 3:30 in the afternoon we are ready to head west.  Wind predictions are favorable.  We should have enough wind to sail all the way to Fiji without having too much wind.

We stop on the way out to visit a small island that has an abandoned lookout tower from WWII.  It is wooden and a bit rotten.  But has a nice view.  We collect some coconuts for our crossing.  And Kat builds a lee cloth for the couch on the port side.  This is a tarp of sorts that turns that couch into storage.  Gets a lot of happy crap off the floor.  She also finishes moving into the galley.  Here is something I learned on this trip.  Is someone comes on board and wants to move into your galley you let them.  Good things happen if you do.

At sunset we resume our way West.  Wind is loving us and the seas roll pleasantly.  Ok, a few things go flying but that’s really kinda natural. 🙂  Kat makes an awesome pasta with Veges and spicy sauce.  I told you good things happen!  We rotate through our watches. Our wind continues to deliver 15-20 kts.  We make 140 miles in our first 24 hours.  Pretty good for Spill The Wine.  She is a bit pudgy with all our gear.